2010 NC Assistive Technology Expo

July 15, 2010

This item is from Lauren Tappan:

Sponsored by the NC Partnership in Assistive Technology, the 2010 Expo will be held November 17 – 19, 2010
at the North Raleigh Hilton.

The Assistive Technology Expo is an exciting three-day event designed to increase awareness and provide current information on assistive technology. Conference offerings include an exhibit hall (on 11/18/10 only) featuring over 60 vendors exhibiting the latest in assistive technology products and services, 40 concurrent sessions, a poster session and a Keynote address.

In addition, a pre-conference session will be offered on November 17 from 9:00-4:00 on Accessible Instructional Media: Using Bookshare to Meet Your Students’ Needs. The morning session will focus on assistive technologies. We’ll look at what’s out there and how to align the technologies with students’ needs. The afternoon session will focus on the Bookshare website as a source of free accessible instructional media (AIM). Particpants will learn what Bookshare offers, how to sign up, how to download books, how to read the books, and where to get support.

Each year between 550-700 registered participants from across the country attend the NC AT Expo and approximately 1300 attend the free Exhibit Hall. Participants include: persons with disabilities, family members, teachers, therapists, Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living staff, rehabilitation counselors, employers, engineers, college professors, medical staff, college and university students, and authorized state purchasers.

For more info, contact http://www.pat.org/index.php/front/contact/


Sayvoice Text to Speech Reader for Windows

July 13, 2010

Sayvoice Text to Speech for windows is software, which can convert your text documents to Wave and MP3 audio files, so you can listen to your documents on a regular or car stereo, CD, MP3 player, or Pocket PC, or integrate spoken audio content into your product presentations. Sayvoice is also an online translating tool which allows you to provide your customers with speedy, multilingual translations in seconds.

Sayvoice Text To Speech Reader is a full-featured tool that will not only read aloud any text of DOC, RTF, HTML, or TXT files, but will also create audio recordings (in either MP3 or WAV) of any supported document or user-created text. The audio quality can be customized, both when reading a text aloud and when converting text into an audio file.

You can open any already existing text file (within the list of supported formats), copy and paste any text in the program’s window, or even type in your own text. In the last two instances, the program will also allow you to create a TXT backup copy of it. This is as far as most TTS software tools can get, but Sayvoice TTS Reader goes beyond that. Its HTML support will let you open an Internet browser without leaving the application, navigate to the web sites of your choice and have them read aloud just like any other document. Thus, when it comes to web browsing, it is almost like having a screen reader installed in your system!

The Windows version does not read anything directly. It can open a Word document, but pastes the contents into its own Text reader automatically. You can paste the contents of an email into its internal reader, but it cannot read the email listing. It opens websites in its own browser. This last is the  smoothest of the lot.

It costs $23.99 for the reader with 5 voices, up to $58.99 for 25 voices. Not all voices are clear; some are muddy or accented.

It comes with a 30 day trial feature. I suggest you try it before you buy it. It does not work as easily as Apple’s VoiceOver does. It is inexpensive, but it was not designed with Low Vision users in mind.




Stem cells reverse blindness

July 11, 2010

DOZENS of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered severe eye damage when they were splashed with caustic chemicals had their sight restored with transplants of their own stem cells – a stunning success for the burgeoning cell-therapy field, Italian researchers reported Wednesday.

The treatment worked completely in 82 of 107 eyes and partially in 14 others, with benefits lasting up to a decade so far. One man whose eyes were severely damaged more than 60 years ago now has near-normal vision.

‘This is a roaring success,’ said ophthalmologist Dr. Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, who had no role in the study – the longest and largest of its kind.

Stem cell transplants offer hope to the thousands of people worldwide every year who suffer chemical burns on their corneas from heavy-duty cleansers or other substances at work or at home.

This particular approach would not help people with damage to the optic nerve or macular degeneration, which involves the retina. Nor would it work in people who are completely blind in both eyes, because doctors need at least some healthy tissue that they can transplant.

In the study, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers took a small number of stem cells from a patient’s healthy eye, multiplied them in the lab and placed them into the burned eye, where they were able to grow new corneal tissue to replace what had been damaged. Since the stem cells are from their own bodies, the patients do not need to take anti-rejection drugs.


The Limits of the Kindle

July 11, 2010

A brief note from Lauren Tappan:

Stanford Engineering LIbrary is going digital.

Disabled Students/ Stanford are suing Kindle because it is not accessible.

Latest News from Gov. Morehead School for the Blind

July 5, 2010

This article is from Lauren Tappan.

Last year, the intervention of the NFB persuaded the state to grant the Gov. Morehead School a reprieve from closing.

In April 2010, the Charlotte Observer reported that, due to the mainstreaming of deaf and blind students, there has been a considerable reduction in enrollment in the NC residential schools. Therefore the state was considering consolidating the Gov Morehead School with two NC schools for the Deaf.

In May 2010, the Raleigh News and Observer reported that the NC Legislators want to restore money cut from schools for the deaf and blind after parents complained that the reductions hurt their children’s education.

The Herman Gruber of the NFB has now advises that the state has made a tentative decision.

The budget has just been passed and signed as of last week. As is always the case we will know more as the budget is implemented during the coming weeks.

Here is a summary of what the budget authorizes.
1. The Governor Morehead School will be transferred from the Department of Health and Human Resorces to the Department of Public Instruction.
2. The Office of Education Services that has been over seeing GMS in the Department of Health and Human Resources is no more.
3. A superintendent will be appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to help carry out the transition from DHHS to DPI.
4. The school will have a principal.
5. The outreach program will still be operated to assist public schools that have blind students who have been mainstreamed.
Another item of much importance to the blind community is the funding of Newsline, the electronic Data Information System. $75.000 was appropriated to provide this service for the next year.
Of course this was the short session of the General Assembly, and next January we will begin all over again to work on these and other issues. The accomplishments enumerated above represents much dedication and hard work. The bottom line is: much effort was required; we gave the requisite effort; and the success was worth it. NFBNC will be there again when needed.

We wish to express our gratitude to the NFB and the NC Legislature for their great efforts.  This episode also is a reminder that other vulnerable people may not have vocal and effective representatives. As legislators make hard budget decisions, they must be the champions of those who necessarily look to the government for protection and relief.

Microbial Protein Restores Vision in Blind Animals with Retinitis Pigmentosa

July 5, 2010

Scientists from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) restore vision in retinitis pigmentosa using an archaebacterial protein. Introducing halorhodopsin into the remaining but nonfunctional cone photoreceptors of the retina of mice not only reactivates the cone cells’ ability to interact with the rest of the visual system, it also prompts sophisticating visually guided behavior. With their collaborators in the Vision Institute of Paris, the scientists were able to validate their results in light-insensitive human retinas in vitro, which were able to respond to light again after treatment. These groundbreaking results were published in the journal Science.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a diverse group of hereditary diseases that lead to incurable blindness and affect two million people worldwide. Despite the diversity of its cause, the manifestation of the disease is similar: the highly sensitive rod photoreceptors, which allow us to see in the dusk, die. Intriguingly, the cones that operate during daylight and are responsible for high-resolution color vision survive longer, though they gradually lose their function. However, it was unknown if these persisting photoreceptors would be accessible for therapeutic intervention.

Neurobiologists from Botond Roska’s group at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, which is part of the Novartis Research Foundation, now have devised a gene therapeutic method to restore the functionality of the cone cells in models of retinitis pigmentosa. In a groundbreaking approach they used a light-sensitive protein called halorhodopsin from archaebacteria to re-establish vision.

In their work, featured today in the reknown journal Science, they were not only able to specifically produce halorhodopsin in the dormant cone cells of mice with retinitis pigmentosa, but they could also show that the cones were able to interact with the rest of the visual system. The existing network of cells was able to reproduce many of the functions of the complicated cascade of molecular events that turn a unit of light into a neuronal signal. What is more, behavioral tests indicated that the retinal information was used for visually guided behavior. The remaining cone cells are therefore an optimal target for gene-therapeutic intervention in disease where photoreceptor function is lost.


The NFB NC State Convention

July 2, 2010

This article is from Lauren Tappen:

The 2010 State NFB Convention is coming in the fall of 2010. We are looking forward to seeing everyone in Burlington in September. Come and join us.

September 10 through 12, 2010

Ramada Inn, Burlington, 2704 Ramada Road, Burlington, NC 27215

Hotel Reservations

$59.00 + 10.75 % Tax
Hotel Phone Number:
(336- 227-5541)

To get the convention rate, reservations must be made by August 27, 2010. Prices are subject to change after August 27, 2010.

Our 2010 Convention Sponsor is Prodigy Diabetes Care, LLC of Charlotte. They will be in the Vendor Hall, will address the convention just before lunch on Saturday, and have a special lunch session on Saturday.

We will have a National representative for our Convention.

The Alamance Chapter is hosting a free cook out Friday night, September 10, at a local park. Transportation will be provided by the local chapter

We will have our usual Vendor Hall on Friday, September 10, from 7 PM to 10 PM.

Our National Rep will do some special sessions at the hotel Friday Afternoon. Everyone is URGED to be at the hotel by Noon on Friday to take advantage of these fine sessions.

Janis Lynn Stallings, our State Treasurer, will hold her Annual Chapter Admin Session Friday night. All Chapters are URGED to send a rep to this meeting.

There will be a great Hospitality setup for the Convention. Dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday are included as part of the registration. Everyone who stays in the hotel gets a free breakfast as part of their room rate.

On Saturday, beginning at 9:00 AM and running to around 5:00 PM we will hear reports and other important information.

During the lunch hours on Saturday, there will be a special Diabetes Session. It will be hosted by Prodigy Diabetes Care, our convention sponsor. Be watching for more details.

On Saturday night, the NFB of NC will hear a rousing speech from our National Rep. We will award the Robert & Hazel Staley Scholarships.

There will be a Talent Show after the banquet. Gary Ray will NOT sing.

We will have a non denominational church service on Sunday morning from 8:00 AM to 8:45 AM.

On Sunday morning, from 9:00 AM to Noon, we will have our Annual Business meeting.

For information about the convention, call Gary Ray at (828) 505-0299  or Patricia Yarbrough at (336) 227-6073 .


If you would like to pre-register for the state convention:


Make your check out to NFB of NC, and send your name, address, phone number, and program media preference (large print or Braille), along with your check to:

Janis Lynn Stallings
1627 Bonnie Lane
Charlotte, NC 28213

For more info: www.nfbofnc.org